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Bosnet Digest V5 #91 / Sunday, 10 March 1996

From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@EE.MCGILL.CA>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

THIS WEEK IN BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA


CONTENTS

  • [01] ARSON, MURDER ESCALATE IN SERB-HELD SUBURBS

  • [02] COLLAPSE OF LAW AND ORDER.

  • [03] BOSNIAN FIREFIGHTERS FINALLY CALLED IN.

  • [04] WOMAN MURDERED; TWO OTHERS MISSING.


  • [01] ARSON, MURDER ESCALATE IN SERB-HELD SUBURBS.

    Bands of armed Serbs are terrorizing residents who want to stay in Ilidza and Grbavica, two Sarajevo suburbs scheduled to revert to Bosnian control later this month. "The people who remain, including a tiny non-Serb population, live in neighborhoods without police or fire protection where gangs roam at night torching and looting buildings and beating and -- in at least one case last week -- murdering residents," Reuters reports.

    "UN and NATO officials say Serb gangs apparently are being directed by the hard-line leadership in the Serb stronghold of Pale, which wants to create ethnically segregated areas as proof that Serbs, Muslims and Croats cannot live together," according to AP.

    International forces have refused to step in and counter the Serb terror campaign.

    "NATO commanders say preventing arson is the responsibility of international police which in turn says it has no power to arrest those setting fires or looting public property," Reuters reports.

    Meanwhile, Serbs have shut down local utilities, firefighting stations, and medical centers, leaving the few remaining residents defenseless; while the international community has blocked Bosnian authorities from entering the districts to restore order until the formal handover dates later this month.

    [02] COLLAPSE OF LAW AND ORDER.

    "Large numbers of fires burned unattended in Ilidza Saturday, destroying houses, flats and a bicycle factory and filling the air with dense black smoke," Reuters reports. "The absence of any sign to extinguish the blazes underscored the virtual collapse of law and order in Ilidza."

    Among the targets: a building housing the new Serbian Democratic Initiative of Sarajevo Serbs, recently formed to encourage Serbs not to flee when Ilidza reverts to Bosnian control. When members pleaded for UN help in saving the building, they were told such action is not part of the UN mandate, said Dusan Sehovac, a leader of the group.

    "The international community is driving us out of here instead of helping us to stay," Sehovac shouted at a meeting with NATO officials, according to AP. "We have no support from anywhere."

    Incredibly, the response of NATO's ground commander in Bosnia, Lt.- Gen. Sir Michael Walker, was for the few remaining residents to seek help from their own "leaders" - the hard-line Serb separatists who have been orchestrating the terror campaign.

    "We can't guarantee your security, but we are here," Walker told a meeting with about a hundred resident. "We in the international community believe that it is safe for you to stay in the suburbs."

    And NATO spokesman Keith Popel told Reuters the alliance has "no evidence at all that Grbavica is in a state of civil insurrection, that the population is fearing for its lives (or) for its property regularly."

    But "reporters were unable to reconcile NATO's version of events with their own eyewitness assessments and those of aid workers and UN police in the area," according to Reuters.

    "There is extreme intimidation and pressure for people to leave. It's a free-for-all and it's getting out of hand in terms of arson and intimidation," said Kris Janowski with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Observers say it is hopelessly naive to expect remaining Serb authorities to deal with the problem.

    "The local (Serb) police, in the opinion of UN civil affairs, are incapable of dealing with the situation," Alexander Ivanko, a spokesman for the UN civilian police, said Saturday.

    One Ilidza resident who had hoped to stay in his home told AP he decided to flee after going to the international police station Friday to report that a building was on fire -- and being told the UN could do nothing. "The international organizations can give no guarantee that we can live in safety," he said. "This is Sarajevo's funeral."

    [03] BOSNIAN FIREFIGHTERS FINALLY CALLED IN.

    NATO finally authorized Bosnian firefighters from nearby Hrasnica to deal with some of the fires blazing out of control in Ilidza. The crew was protected by French NATO troops in armored personnel carriers.

    The firefighters had to bring their own water, since Serb hardliners have severed water supplies in the district.

    "The Serbs killed my four-year-old son in October of last year with a shell," Hrasnica Fire Chief Nevzet Kolasinac told Reuters. "I have a flat here which I haven't seen since the war began. Now I am here on an intervention to fight a fire the Serbs started because NATO won't do it. Strange isn't it?"

    [04] WOMAN MURDERED; TWO OTHERS MISSING.

    Sadeta Mehanovic -- a Muslim who lived through 43 months of war in Serb- controlled territory -- could not survive the "peace." The woman was killed in her Grbavica apartment after hours of beating and torture, Western media report.

    "Neighbors of the murdered woman told reporters and UN workers they cowered in their flats as the woman screamed through a drawn-out beating until two shots rang out, ending her agony," according to Reuters.

    "The police report said her body was found kneeling next to a chair with bullet holes above and below her right ear. ... Bloody bits of the woman's scalp and skull remain splattered on the wall and ceiling of her ransacked flat."

    A UN police monitor said the crime was "a simple robbery and murder."

    "Not so easily dismissed was the fact that Mehanovic's neighbours in adjacent flats listened to her screams in the night for hours but were too terrified to come to her assistance or go for help," Reuters reports. Phone service -- along with most other utilities -- has been cut off.

    On Saturday, two people who had been outspoken in their desire to remain in their homes on the outskirts of Ilidza simply disappeared. "Once people in their village heard they were missing, everyone started to pack up to leave," Janowski with UNHCR told Reuters. The kidnappings took place in Vrlo Bosna, just down the road from NATO headquarters.

    "There is a continued campaign of harassment, brutality and arson," he added in an interview with AP. "There's escalating violence. There's escalating arson. And there seems to be no way to stop it since everybody says it's not their job."


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